Why it’s very, very unlikely the Senedd elections will be postponed

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething. Picture by Davmay48 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Ifan Morgan Jones

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said it is possible the next year’s Senedd elections may not go ahead as planned due to the coronavirus.

He suggested that unless a vaccine or treatment is found in the meantime, the elections due to be held on Thursday, 6 May of next year may need to be pushed back to a later date.

This would mean that more than five years have passed since the last elections in May 2016. Five years have already been an extension on the first three Assemblies which only lasted four years each.

“No one is suggesting now that the elections cannot go ahead because we may be able to say that we will be in a position by then [next May] when we may have a vaccine or effective antiviral treatment, but I can’t give you any certainty about that,” Vaughan Gething said.

“It’s much better to be honest about that than to try and pretend that we absolutely will do everything according to a set timescale.”

I’m sure the Health Minister’s concerns are genuine but it may not have been a good idea to say this out loud considering that opposition parties will no doubt seize on it to claim that Labour want to delay elections in which they are, at the moment, expected to take a drubbing (I’m increasingly sceptical that will still be the case by this time next year though).

However, in reality, I think it’s extremely unlikely that the elections will actually need to be postponed. In fact, while delaying the PCC and Engand’s local elections were no doubt the right move at the time, a Senedd election could probably be held even now without flouting social distancing rules.

 

Organise

We should never say never of course. The coronavirus could mutate tomorrow into a far more dangerous virus that requires a far more stringent lockdown.

But if supermarkets can stay open with a one in one out policy in place, then no doubt polling stations could do the same thing.

And let’s face it, this is a Senedd election we’re talking about – the polling stations are unlikely be heaving as hundreds rush all at once to ensure that their vote is counted.

As long as it could be ensured that everyone has a polling booth in their local area, which should be the case anyway, no rules will be flouted.

And let us not forget that the Senedd does have a whole year to organise this thing. If they put their heads together I am quite sure that they could ensure that everyone gets a postal vote. They could even organise an online voting system by then, if we really are facing a post-apocalyptic scenario.

The Senedd vote would also coincide with PCC elections across Wales and England, council elections in England and the Scottish Parliament elections in Scotland. If they go ahead (particularly the PCC elections) then it would be impossible to postpone the Senedd ones.

By May of next year, elections are also likely to have been held in Iceland (presidential election, June), Belarus (presidential election, August), and France (senate elections, September). In October, there are scheduled polls in Austria, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, and Ukraine.

There is no suggestion yet of these elections being postponed and they will no doubt find ways to hold them that Wales can then emulate in May.

It’s also worth remembering that, ultimately, it’s the Senedd which would decide whether the election is delayed – not the Welsh Government – and it’s the Senedd which would organise the vote – not the Welsh Government.

It’s fair to say therefore that we shouldn’t over-react to the Health Minister’s words today.

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Jonathan GammondAlwyn ap HuwHuw DaviesJohn EllisE Williams Recent comment authors
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Sian Caiach
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Other countries, such as South Korea, seem to have manged elections during a time of active infection but if next years’ elections are delayed we will end up with a real car crash of elections piling up. In England we have Mayoral elections already delayed along with police commissioners and their local English elections. In Wales, delaying until 2022 will add all the Council elections to the mix along with Police commissioners and the Senedd elections, in most cases 5 ballot papers to fill in for every voter. A nightmare which could be made even worse by the odd parliamentary… Read more »

Ann Owen
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Ann Owen

Classic flying a kite and diversion tactics – to get us all talking about anything else apart from demanding information on the practical logistics for the Test, Trace, Isolate regime that isn’t yet in place, and the getting out of lockdown road map that wasn’t presented to the public by Mark Drakeford! Apart from the statement that there was a road map for Wales, and mention of 3 traffic light colours there was absolutely no further information for the Welsh public! We can’t all be searching Welsh Govt website for the details – they’re counting on it! Let’s all keep… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Man wants to hang on to his job for as long as he can. Is he worried ? He ought to be as he is the outstanding dud in the pack during this crisis. Evident that Drakeford doesn’t have a viable alternative for Minister.

Simon Gruffydd
Guest

I highly doubt that Wales will still be under mandated social dysfunction come this time next year. The evidence is now overwhelming that this latest coronavirus is no more deadly than a bad flu season. People will have woken up to the lies and stupidity long before then I should hope. Ifan mentions presidential elections in Belarus in August. The government of Belarus has already called the Covid-19 a hoax. Ignore it and drink vodka the president advised. No spikes in deaths there. Ignoring it seems the best policy response so far. There has been a spike in excess deaths… Read more »

John Ellis
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John Ellis

I was already following president Lukashenko’s sage counsels on the benefits of vodka before he uttered them, but that had nothing to do with the virus; I suddenly developed tinnitus just over five years ago, and a few vodkas prior to bedtime ensure the sleep of which the noise in my head would otherwise deprive me. But do I buy his suggestion that a melange of plentiful imbibings of vodka and energetic and enthusiastic paricipation in the game of ice hockey will in combination hold Covid-19 at bay? Well, the osteoarthritis in my knees coupled with the deterioration of sense… Read more »

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

Is this by any chance the President Lukashenko of Belarus who has clamped down on people in that country who speak Belorussian and Polish rather than his preferred language, Russian?

E Williams
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E Williams

I would like to think Welsh Labour believe its the only way they’ll still be in power is by delaying elections. It doesn’t help Labour’s chances when you hear Gethin, Welsh Gov health minister also state on BBC’s Politics Wales he’s “really not bothered” with the costs of his aborted testing portal. The thin end of the wedge I bet and perhaps explains to a larger degree why NHS Wales struggles. What other money has been squandered over the years that could have been better spent elsewhere. His absurd and perpetual incompetencies are costing lives both directly and indirectly. Is… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Sums him up – a bit of a waster ? or maybe a major league waster ?

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

I started reading Mr Morgan Jones’s opinion piece with a sense that postponement of next year’s elections might turn out to be an regrettable but defensible necessity.

But his arguments, plus those adduced by some contributors to this thread, have rather convinced me otherwise.

Alwyn ap Huw
Guest
Alwyn ap Huw

Before WW I polling in the UK use to be held over weeks rather than on one day. If I remember rightly Keir Hardie had lost an election in England and Scotland before turning up victorious in Merthyr! Social distancing for those who doubt the validity of postal voting (I’ve voted by post for all Assembly/Senedd elections) could be achieved by allowing 2 meter votes, in person, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday etc